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The world’s 10 most spoken languages, compared by location and relative population size.

JUST HOW MANY PEOPLE could you talk to if you picked up key phrases in nine more languages (assuming that you already speak English)? And how many parts of the world would you be likely to find someone to speak to in one of those languages? This infographic plots language speakers on the world map, and shows just how massive these widely spoken languages really are.

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About The Author

Eileen Smith

Eileen Smith is the editor of Matador Abroad. She's an ex-Brooklynite who's made a life in Santiago, Chile. She's a fluent Spanish speaker who can be found biking, hiking, writing, photographing and/or seeking good coffee and nibbles at most hours of the day. She blogs here.

  • Alistair Cunningham

    Considering only first languages doesn’t strike me as particularly relevant. The purpose of language is, after all, to be able to communicate with people. Considering the total number people with at a ‘functional’ (which is of course somewhat arbitrary) command of a language would seem to be much more useful.

  • Alistair Cunningham

    Considering only first languages doesn’t strike me as particularly relevant or useful. The purpose of language is, after all, to be able to communicate with people. The first sentence of the article poses the question “Just how many people could you talk to?” Considering the total number people with a ‘functional’ (which is of course somewhat arbitrary) command of a language or better would seem to be much more useful than those who just speak it as a first language.

  • Tahir Mohamed

    I’m a bit confused by something, but I might just be overlooking an obvious answer here so bear with me: it says that 1.213 million people speak Chinese. But the population of China is 1.3 billion. Am I missing something?

  • Edgar Ortiz

    interesante

  • Rooted in motion

    As a dedicated traveler, I am always on the hunt for wonderful travel resources! Matador is one of my favorites! Where do you go for information and inspiration?

  • Stefan Hamilton Tuchĕn

    Who came up with those numbers?

    How can 173 million people speak Portuguese, if Brazil alone has over 190 million people living there, not to mention all the other Lusophone nations?

    314 million people live in the United States, something like 60 million in Britain, plus countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. 328 seems rather low.

    German seems too low as well. I don’t know about the other ones.

    • Carlo Alcos

      Hi Stefan, see my other comment…first, the source of the numbers is at the bottom. Second, you’re not taking into account the number of people in those countries whose first language is NOT the official language of that country. The numbers in this infographic are first-language only. Canada, US, Australia, Britain all have high numbers of immigrants, which would account for the difference in numbers.

  • Monica Hernandez

    Brazil alone has practically 200 million people, basically everybody there speaks Portuguese.
    Other than that, great infographic.

  • Carlo Alcos

    To all who are questioning the numbers, the source is at the bottom of the infographic. It’s here: http://www.ethnologue.com/ethno_docs/distribution.asp?by=size – I think what the issue between the discrepancy of language speakers and # of residents is that these are numbers for FIRST-language speakers…so although Brazil may have more people than what is indicated here, probably many are immigrants or just don’t speak Portuguese as a first language.

  • Darcey Wunker

    You also forgot to take into account that Hindi and Urdu are really Hindustani, and use the languages interchangeably. Anywhere Urdu is spoken (Pakistan) should also have Hindi taken into account, and/or your “Hindi” should be recategorized as Hindustani.

    • Priyanka

      I had the same thought as you. But its probably because they really want to keep the two languages distinct. As they are actually categorized as two different languages.

  • Tamia Dowlatabadi

    Interesting chart. However, I am wondering which 30 languages make up the Arabic macrolanguage. It appears that you have included Turkic languages (like Turkish and Uzbek) and Iranian sub-family languages such as Farsi, Tajik (spoken in Tajikistan and parts of Uzbekistan) and Pashto and Dari (spoken in Afghanistan). Turkic and Iranian languages are not even in the same family as Arabic. There may be some people in these countries who speak Arabic as a first language, but I probably not a “significant” number.

    • Mehmet Sinan Inci

      turkey alone has population of 75million and if you add kırghızistan,kazakhistan,uzbekistan,tacikistan,turkmenistan,turkestan, azerbaijan etc you’d get about 300 million people. so, seeing that portuguese also has incorrect numbers, i’d suggest re-checking the numbers.
      other than that it’s a good infopgraphic :)

  • Palabea – the speaking world
    • Nancy Rampal Meunier

      Amerique, Inde, Arabie

  • Hal Amen

    that’s a comma — 1,213 million. hard to tell w/ the small font i know.

  • Tahir Mohamed

    Oh geez, well that makes a LOT more sense. I should have realized that, seeing as it was above the #2 most spoken language at 329 million. It’s only logical. Haha, thanks!

  • Riikka Pasanen

    It’s just a comma/dot mistake. One thousand million equals one billion, 1213 million is 1.3 billion.

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